Student Perspectives is our series of guest posts written by current #citylis students.
Current Library Science student Mariana Strassacapa Ou offers some reflection and recommendations for incoming CityLIS students.
I’m a full-time MSc Library Science 2016-2017 student, which means at the moment I’m working on my dissertation, to be handed by the end of September—scary but fun times. As a break from the research I decided to gather a few Library & Information Science references in this blog post, aiming at the new colleagues joining CityLIS this 17′ Autumn; it is also a bit of a reflective moment for me, to look back at this year that has passed so quickly, and try to come up with not too long a list of readings & other things that I think could be quite useful to anyone starting their MSc LIS at City.
Attention: this list is highly subjective! Loads of personals interests in it, but I’ve also tried to think more broadly and include a little bit of everything. Also worth noting that I am an architect from Brazil trying to get into librarianship, so I did not have any background when I started at CityLIS; so if you’re already a library worker with some knowledge of things, then you might already know or even read things from this list. And I’m also interested in libraries in particular, even though of course the world of LIS goes beyond them, so if you’re interested in information management in big corporations, well, you won’t find much stuff for you here. Anyway, this is supposed to be introductory, and something that I would definitely have appreciated knowing/reading about when I was starting myself. So here we go:
Books!—because we all love them, right?
Books that nicely introduce you to the world of LIS
Bawden, D. and Robinson, L. (2012). Introduction to information science. London: Facet. Yep, starting by the book of our dear lecturers, and that’s because it is genuinely a great resource. I found myself going back to it for every single assignment I would write. Is is an ‘introduction’ indeed, but more than that is also presents lots of discussions and critical commentaries, and very useful lists of references about the many LIS themes. There are many copies of it in the City Library, but the one I bought for myself ended up completely highlighted and annotated, and I used it throughout the whole course/year—so I would definitely recommend buying one for yourself if you can. If you become a CILIP member (we CityLIS students can easily join), some discount on Facet books apply!
Buckland, M. (2017). Information and society. Cambridge, Massachusetts; London: The MIT Press. The MIT Press is a publisher to watch, as they are always coming up with good stuff of LIS interest; this book is a true little gem, and part of a fine ‘Essential Knowledge Series’ that is actually very helpful; I also like the Metadata and the Open Access titles; the Computing: a concise history also looks great but haven’t read yet. But Information and society gives a great, short & sweet introduction to LIS and to the discussions around the relationship between, well… information and society! The foreword is by our dear David Bawden.
The MIT Press on Twitter: @mitpress
Link to MIT Press books on Internet Studies/Information/Communication
Link to MIT Press book on Humanities (note the annotated Frankenstein edition!)
Gleick, J. (2011). The Information: A history, a theory, a flood. London: Fourth Estate is a big, amazingly readable book that ‘tells the story of how human beings use, transmit and keep what they know. From African talking drums to Wikipedia, from Morse code to the ‘bit’, it is a fascinating account of the modern age’s defining idea and a brilliant exploration of how information has repeatedly revolutionised our lives’ (from the back of the paperback edition)—I don’t see how it can be more appealing than that! I was reading this one when my CityLIS classes started, and I surely felt as I was more tuned in and ‘kept up with’ the many LIS themes that were being discussed in class by having been reading this book.
Link to Gleick presenting the book at a Talks at Google on YouTube
The book record in the CityLibrary
Wright, A. (2014). Cataloging the world: Paul Otlet and the birth of the information age. Oxford: Oxford University Press presents a fascinating history of not only Otlet and the Mundaneum, but of cataloging and indexing and organising practices as modern phenomena, introductory of the ‘information age’. Contains loads of relevant LIS characters and events and it was obviously very well researched. The book also has a pretty website.
Books on Library History
I love history and I think the biggest frustration of my life is that I did not graduate as an historian but as a d**n architect. I try to work my way around it; my undergrad dissertation was about Chinese modernity, and for my LIS dissertation I’m trying to build an archival resource that can be useful to library history studies.
Anyway, I know that lots of CityLIS friends like history as well and many are great enough be historians themselves, so I thought a couple of library history references would be nice. Note: no history-of-libraries-of-all-times-and-places here; this is specific stuff because I think specificity makes nice history (more about my views of library history here). These ones are about the history of the public library.
Wiegand, W. (2015). Part of our lives: a people’s history of the American public library. Oxford: Oxford University Press is a, well, history of the American public library as institution written from the voices of the library users—the people—as a history from bottom-up: ‘the library in the life of the user’, instead of the other way around. The author, librarian and library historian Wayne Wiegand, concluded that over more than a century people have been coming to the public library to get, mainly, ‘information, space, and reading’.
Link to the book record in the Senate House Library
Link to Wayne Wiegand himself talking about the book in this great YouTube video
Black, A. (2016). Libraries of Light: British public library design in the long 1960s. London: Routledge from British librarian and library historian Alistair Black is an accomplishment in terms of his work; he has been talking and researching about how to write public library history that embeds the library in its cultural and social milieu for a long time, as well as trying to bring other disciplines closer to library history—in this case, architecture and urbanism, studies of modernity and political history. Great read that also highlights the library user’s voice and perceptions.
And then there’s the Library & Information History journal, and the CILIP Library and Information History Group to be joined if of interest. I like following the many events, conferences and talks held by the Institute of Historical Research – School of Advanced Studies, University of London; in the past year I’ve attended some very nice events like Future Past: researching archives in the digital age and the History Day 2016: Libraries versus Archives! (audio of full discussion available!); it was also from the IHR events that I became aware of the Layers of London project, which then turned out to play a major role in my present dissertation.
Books that help make sense of the digital
Digital and computing everywhere, but what is ‘digital’, what does it even mean?! Are analogue and digital antonyms? What are we actually doing when we digitise things, objects? What is a digital library? Some big & intimidating questions here, but these two books are guaranteed to make you feel much more comfortable thinking and doing digitally:
I have no idea how to endorse Peters, B., ed. (2016) Digital Keywords: a vocabulary of information society & culture. Princeton: Princeton University Press more; this is a phenomenal book that departs from the idea that ‘whatever else it is, the digital revolution is a revolution in language’ (p. xviii) and that ‘terminologies do routine work: every word that empowers action also screens what we can do in reality because reality has first limited how we can use words’ (p. xv). Each chapter is an essay on a ‘digital keyword’: we have for example ‘Analog’ by J. Sterne; ‘Democracy’ by R. K. Nielsen; ‘Gaming’ by S. Bhaduri; ‘Sharing’ by J. Drouin; they all try to understand what these ‘keywords’ mean and do in our society & culture. My favourite chapter is ‘Digital’ by B. Peters the editor himself; his basic argument:
like fingers, digit media carry out at least three fundamental (Lacanian) categories of actions: digits count the symbolic, they index the real, and, once combined and coordinated, they manipulate the social imaginary. (p. 94)
I would keep an eye on Benjamin Peters’ work through his website; note his newest book How Not to Network a Nation: The uneasy history of the Soviet Internet, doesn’t it sound amazing?
Links to excerpts from the ‘Digital’ and the ‘Analog’ chapters
The CityLibrary doesn’t currently hold a copy of this book, but I’ve just ordered one through CityLibrary More Books scheme and should be around in four weeks or so!—yes we get to order the books we want to the library, pretty cool. You can also buy your own from Foyles or Waterstones.
Rumsey, A. S. (2016). When We Are No More: How Digital Memory Is Shaping Our Future. London: Bloomsbury is a lovely book by historian Abby Smith Rumsey; among many fascinating things she’s done she has spent a decade in the Library of Congress. Divided in three parts, ‘Where we come from’, ‘Where we are’, and ‘Where we are going’, the book explores memory in the digital age, ‘for memory is not about the past. It is about the future’ (p. 12); the goal is ‘to deepen our understanding of memory’s role in creating the future and to expand the imaginative possibilities for rebuilding memory in the digital age’—she succeeds; it is a very insightful reading.
A book about humanity and knowledge
Peters, J. (2016). The Idealist: Aaron Swartz and the rise of free culture on the Internet. New York: Scribner ‘is a provisional narrative introduction to the story of free culture in America, using Swartz’s life as a lens on the rise of information sharing in the digital age’ (p. ix), but this is a modest description of the book by its author. Peters goes a long way back in time, back to ‘Noah Webster and the movement for copyright in America’ through discussions on authorship and knowledge ownership & sharing, with carefully researched historical material, until Aaron Swartz, his work and and legacy; the book ‘is an important investigation of the fate of the digital commons in an increasingly corporatized Internet’ (from the book flap). It is a fascinating read and sheds lights on important contemporary publishing debates and practices.
I didn’t find a copy of this book around our libraries; there is one at the British Library, but as you might know the BL is a reference library (no lending), and personally I find it a bit annoying to read ‘casual books’ in the Reading Rooms there, unless of course it’s an item that is only available there so no other option. You can order one for CityLibrary, or buy one from Foyles or Waterstones.
Still on this copyright/ownership of knowledge theme, the UCL Press is doing an amazing job in fully open-access scholarly publishing; ‘it seeks to use modern technologies and 21st-century means of publishing/dissemination radically to change the prevailing models for the publication of research outputs’ (from their website). I’m currently reading their very recently published The Web as History, lots of relevant stuff for LIS.
A couple of apparently conflicting but interconnected awesome books
Schnapp, J. T. and Battles, M. (2014). The library beyond the book. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press is a super fun read on the past, present and future of the library as a ‘mix-and-match space’. The authors call the book a ‘provocation’, and address ‘a threshold being traversed at the time of writing’:
The threshold in question is made up of interlocking components: changes in the nature and status of the document and the book; changes in practices of reading, research, note-taking, and information-sharing; changes in the architectural and institutional containers in which such practices are carried out and by means of which they are supported. It was arrived at not suddenly but slowly, not with the wave of a digital magic wand, but thanks to a century-long transformation in the culture of communication. (p.14)
Link to the book record in the CityLibrary
Link to article/excerpt of the book in the Slate magazine
Article on the metaLAB (of which this book is a resulting project) work in the Digital Humanities; it is also a very good introduction to the field, if you don’t know about it already.
The library might go beyond the book, but Houston, K. (2016). The Book: a cover-to-cover exploration of the most powerful object of our time. London: W. W. Norton & Company dives deep into the book as ‘the quiet apex predator that won out over clay tablets, papyrus scrolls, and wax writing boards to carry our history down to us’ (p. xvi). This book on books is about ‘the history and the making and the bookness of all those books, the weighty, complicated, inviting artifacts that humanity has been writing, printing, and binding for more than fifteen hundred years. It is about the book that you know when you see it’ (p. xvii). By far, this is the most beautiful book as book of this list; so nice to touch and hold and flick through all the nice illustrations. And apart from its fascinating content, made me think about the relationships between book history and library history, and the history of the document(ation) and library & information science.
Keith Houston is going to be in the British Library talking about this book on the 3rd July
Link to this book in the CityLibrary
A journal I like to follow and read is
The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy,
by The University of Chicago Press.
A recent article I’ve read in it and enjoyed very much is Hoffmann, A.L. (2016). Google Books, libraries, and self-respect: Information justice beyond distributions. The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, 86(1), 76-92.
A person whose work I like to follow is
Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information Luciano Floridi
His book Fourth Revolution: How the infosphere is reshaping human reality provides a great introduction to his thought and to his concept of ‘infosphere’; from the Oxford University Press website: ‘Considers the influence information and communication technologies (ICTs) are having on our world; Describes some of the latest developments in ICTs and their use in a range of fields; Argues that ICTs have become environmental forces that create and transform our realities; Explores the impact of ICTs in a range of areas, from education and scientific research to social interaction, and even war.’
Link to Professor Luciano Floridi on Twitter
He is part of the Oxford Internet Institute, ‘a multidisciplinary research and teaching department of the University of Oxford, dedicated to the social science of the Internet’; I usually keep an eye on what they’ve been doing there, and on their events and blog posts.
To follow on Twitter:
‘Inspiring collections and beautiful libraries. Facilitating world class research at the University of Oxford’
‘Oxford University Press’s insights for librarians, sharing news, resources, and ideas for libraries across the world’
‘The Open Library of Humanities. Building a sustainable, open access future for the humanities. Join us. email@example.com’
U of MN Press
‘University of Minnesota Press is the publisher of groundbreaking work in social and cultural thought, critical theory, media studies, and more’
‘We make the web a more intelligent place. A Thought-Provoking Blog. Free Courses. Free Audio Books & eBooks. And more’
Be sure you check CityLIS online repository in the
for CityLIS alumni dissertations and theses
• issue your library card for the Senate House Library, an amazing University of London library with a very comprehensive Book Studies section and cozy leather sofas.
• issue your British Library Reader Pass; some items I was only able to find there, and to enter the Reading Rooms and to consult any material you must have a Reader Pass.
• ask someone as birthday or Christmas or whatever day present for a gift membership of the British Library; the Member’s Room is a very nice place to work & study; you get some free tickets to events, and free limitless entry to the exhibitions.
• issue your library card for the Barbican Library; it’s the largest public library near City, with great collection and great space (it’s inside the Barbican Centre!)
I hope this is all of some help and use. I really enjoyed my year in CityLIS and wish it hadn’t passed so quickly. Do feel free to ask any question, and suggestions to this list are always very welcome.
This post was first published on June 26th 2017, on Mariana’s personal blog this is a digital information technology.
Follow Mariana on Twitter.
If you would like to join CityLIS in September 2017, you can find our more about our courses on our website.